IQ and voter turnout

Less intelligent states less electorally participatory

The hunt for some socially desirable attribute that correlates inversely with average IQ continues. Electoral participation didn’t strike me as a particularly promising candidate, but one entrusted with such an important task must leave no stone unturned, and so I continue to kick the rocks.

Using a great data table on ’04 turnout numbers from GMU Professor Michael McDonald, the percentage of the voting-eligible population by state is correlated with its estimated average IQ. McDonald eschews two flawed methods of gauging turnout that I came across when looking for a reliable data source.

Several sites simply report actual votes cast as a percentage of the voting-age population within a state. In the case of felons or the mentally incapacitated, that’s not too problematic–their numbers proxy well for the size of the double-digit IQ population, and they are distributed across the country roughly accordingly. But it is flawed because it doesn’t account for the presence of non-citizens. In a state like California, where more than one-fourth of the population is foreign-born, the state is artificially dropped near the very bottom in terms of voter turnout, which tells us little about the relationship between intelligence and how likely people who are able to vote actually are to vote.

Others look at the percentage of registered voters who go to the polls. But states are slow to adjust those numbers when people move or register to vote elsewhere, which is why some states show more than 100% of the voting-age population being registered to vote! Voter fraud, anyone?

McDonald gets around these problems by coming up with the size of each state’s voter-eligible population. He pulls the foreign-born, the incarcerated, the mentally ill (contingent upon law, as the rules vary from state to state), and half of those on parole (an estimate arrived at through reports from the Department of Justice) from a state’s total 18 and over population, then compares that figure to actual votes cast for the highest office in contention on the ballot.

Crunching the numbers confirms the expected. Voter turnout as a percentage of the voter-eligible population and average IQ correlate at a statistically significant .65 (p<.000001) at the state level. Average IQ alone thus ‘explains’ 42% of a state’s voter turnout. That is a strong relationship for the social sciences. Put in another way, it suggests that for every one point increase a state’s average IQ, voter turnout should increase by nearly 4%. This brings to mind the words of Fredo Arias-King, adviser to former Mexican President Vicente Fox:

Several [Democratic legislators] tended to see Latin American immigrants and even Latino constituents as both more dependent on and accepting of active government programs and the political class guaranteeing those programs, a point they emphasized more than the voting per se. Moreover, they saw Latinos as more loyal and “dependable” in supporting a patron-client system and in building reliable patronage networks to circumvent the exigencies of political life as devised by the Founding Fathers and expected daily by the average American.

Last year, Pew reported that voter-eligible Hispanics are less likely than other Americans to cast ballots:

Hispanics who are eligible to vote are less likely to register and less likely to cast a vote than either whites or blacks.

About 54% of Hispanics who were eligible to vote [thus illegal immigrants do not factor into ineptness] registered in November 2006. Among whites and blacks, the figure was 71% and 61%, respectively.

The ’08 Democratic primaries brought record turnouts in several states across the country. But the race was competitive longer than any Democratic contest has been in several decades.

As Hispanics come to account for one-third of the total US population, which the Census now estimates will happen before mid-century, the country’s average IQ will decline from an estimated 97 or 98 today to between 93 and 95, similar to that of contemporary Argentina or Romania. So there will be two forces working against high voter turnout–a less intelligent, less civically-minded public, and a larger Hispanic population more resigned to a prodigious, corrupt government. The linear equation created from the simple regression presented above suggests that nationally voter-eligible turnout will fall from 61% today to just under half (49%) by 2050.

An uninformed, apathetic public doesn’t bode well for the future of the United States, which will simultaneously be beset with a rapidly growing elderly population (the number of people 85 and older is projected to increase by more than 300% over the next four decades). As the ratio of dependents to workers continues to grow, those who do vote will increasingly find themselves on the receiving end of entitlement programs and will thus be reluctant to vote against the expanding governmental leviathan that feeds them by eating up the productive assets of the proportionally shrinking productive classes.

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